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Specialist Poorly Guinea - Loss Of Balance And Control :-(

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jordini

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Hi,
I found one of my girls (Honey) poorly in her cage Monday morning, after being seemingly fine on Sunday, running about, squeaking and eating as normal.
Monday morning she was just laying on the floor of the cage and when I reached in to get her she tried to hide herself away but didn't have full control, her head was tilted to the side a bit and really low, she just kind of pushed herself along....was so awful.
I took her straight to the vet who treated her for fluid around the lungs, as he could hardly hear any breathing, and also with antibiotics. He wasn't sure what was wrong but suspected either an infection or a heart problem. She stayed at the vets and they called in the afternoon to say they thought she had gone blind now and she couldn't move her front legs or lift her head. They really thought she was about to die. She survived overnight though and got back to the same state she was in when I took her which really surprised the vets. I picked her up yesterday as they were happy for me to care for her at home. I've been syringe feeding her with a recovery paste and she is still having antibiotics (baytril), but she is still much the same as when I took her in. The vet said to give her a day or so and hopefully she would improve.
She is feeding and immediately wants the food I'm giving her, and will also eat grass and dandelion leaves if I'm holding her and put them up to her mouth. She's finding it really hard to eat by herself though as she just can't seem to keep her head up. She did manage to eat a bit of lettuce that I left next to her though, which I'm hoping is a good sign.
I'm just really unsure what to do next. Has anyone experienced anything like this before?
I was wondering if it's an ear infection as her head is affected but it almost feels neurological with the lack of control
Would appreciate any advice if anyone has any?
Many thanks
Lisa
 

Wiebke

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Hi and welcome!

I am very sorry for you! what an anxious time! It rather sounds neurological, as an ear infection generally only affects the balance and causes a head tilt, but not the other issues.

Please continue to hand feed. Has your vet considered trying heart meds? How old is Honey?
I am tagging @Pebble and @Elwickcavies for you.

As we have members from all over the world, we also find very helpful if you please added your country, state or (for the UK) your county so we can tailor any advice to what is available where you are straight away.
 

jordini

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Hi, thanks for the quick reply.
No, the vet didn't suggest any heart meds, do you think that's worth asking for?
Honey is only a year old, I just can't understand what has happened and how she can go from fine to so poorly overnight :-( I will continue feeding her though
Thanks
Lisa
 

Wiebke

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jordini

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Thanks, that's great. She was only taking about 5ml when she was at the vets but has been really hungry today and probably eating 20ml at each feed. I wasn't advised to give her water separately as well though so will do that.
Thanks
Lisa
 

sport_billy

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Just saw your introduction post, really sorry to hear this... must be awful to be going through it :( sending you a big hug and love to Honey. Wiebke has tagged in our medical experts hopefully they may be able to offer some guidance and ideas on diagnostics etc...

@Abi_nurse @helen105281 too
 

jordini

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Thanks, it is so heart breaking as she is trying hard to eat by herself when I put food right next to her but just struggles so much to keep her head up. She starts ok but then her bottom flops to one side and she's down again :-( At least she is eating though :-)
Thanks for the extra tag too.

Lisa
 

sport_billy

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It's okay Lisa, these things are very difficult and you may unfortunately have to make some difficult choices over the forthcoming days if the situation doesn't improve. How cavy savy is you vet? I know how heartbreaking things like this feel, she has a good mum looking after her remember that.

Is she pooing okay and weeing?
 

jordini

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Thanks :-)
I'm not sure how much he knows about piggies but he's been the main vet there for as long as I can remember and both him and the practise are very popular.
She's pooping fine but not sure about weeing, I'll have to check.
 

helen105281

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Did the vet give a diuretic do you know? I have pigs on heart meds and they are all doing well so it is definitely worth asking the vet about this. They are on Benazapril which is an ACE Inhibitor. The vet may want to do an xray to check if there is any fluid or if the heart is enlarged. If so, this should not be done conscious on a suspected heart pig. My other thought is a possible stroke, this would fit with the loss of balance. Has your vet considered this? or an ear infection like you have mentioned already.
 

Pebble

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Agree that the diagnostics should be focusing on stroke, ear infection, ear mites or other systemic infection (respiratory/lungs/bloodstream). Given the fluid on the lungs it is less likely to be a "mechanical" stroke per se than an infection that is spreading systemically through the body.

I have had piggies with severe infections that started in the respiratory system that have exhibited very similar "collapsed" signs with head down, not able to walk properly (even hind limb paralysis) and head tilt.
She's only a year old - so it is unlikely to be the classic congestive heart failure issue - although it could be there is an infection affecting her heart as well as her lungs.

From what you say, she has had a diuretic to start removing the fluid (good - but she may need more over the next 3 days or so to ensure the fluid is properly removed and doesn;t build up again so be prepared for more vets visits.)
She's been started on an antibiotic - which will take 48 hours to impact on reducing the bacterial load so it is unlikely you will see much improvement until then.

Until then all you can do is continue to provide the "supportive care" which you're already doing wonderfully in terms of helping her to eat, syringe feeding etc. 20mls every 4 hours is a good amount to aim for when a piggie can't eat for themselves but if they can't manage 20ml in one sitting then you need to reduce the amount and give more frequently. (With one piggie I literally sat up the whole night because they could only take 0.1-0.2ml every 10monutes - they made a full recovery) Weigh her daily and keep an eye on her poo output (size,shape,consistency and frequency) in case her gut starts to slow down and you need gut motility meds (this is likely given her condition)

It;s hard to believe that a piggie can possibly recover from such nasty infections when they look so poorly and are so dependent upon you to keep things going in one end (syringe feeding) and coming out the other (gut motility meds)......but they can and they do!
If this is your first experience of supporting such a poorly piggie then it can be quite frightening, upsetting, daunting and stressful and you wonder whether you are doing the right thing. As a rule of thumb, I will continue to support an ill piggie as long as they are prepared to swallow and there is no further deterioration in terms of respiratory distress.

Sending you lots of positive vibes and support - speaking from experience of dealing with many piggies, the first 48 hours until the abx start to do their stuff are the worst.

x
 

Elwickcavies

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I agree with everything that has been said. Another possibility is a brain parasite called E. canniculi which is more common in rabbits, but can affect guinea pigs too. The treatment would be Panacur and it may be worth mentioning this to your vet. In the meantime you are doing everything you can do. She has made improvements which means she's a fighter and keeping her strength up is an important part of her care. Keep going!
 

jordini

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Thankyou so much for your replies, I think Honey seems a little better today and maybe more stable on her feet. She's still wolfing down the recovery food and using her front legs to hold onto the syringe now :-) so I think I will try mashing up some of her normal pellets to see if I can encourage her to eat those again. She is eating some of the hay around her by herself too.
The only thing which worried me a bit was that her belly was all damp this morning when I fed her, I guess from just weeing wherever she is laying. Is it best just to leave that do you think and change the bedding regularly or should I try to clean her a bit, worried about making her cold.

I will see how she is in the morning and if she's still much the same I will take her back to the vets and mention the heart meds and Panacur too, as tomorrow will be day 5 of the antibiotics so if it is an infection I guess it should be clearing by now. She's on 0.2ml Baytril per day.

Also I weighed her as suggested, and will do so each day. She was 660g, not sure how that measures up for a 1 year old piggie? Our other piggie has always looked a lot bigger.

Thanks again for all the support, it's really appreciated :-)

Lisa and Honey
 

jordini

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Just a little update, I have just fed Honey again and this time with mashed up pellets and after turning her nose up a few times she took some and then kept reaching her head out to get to the syringe again to get more which was so great to see :-) And although she is still laying down a lot and resting her head a lot, she's definitely moving around more and able to stay standing up for longer :-) She's still not interested in eating the pellets or drinking from her bottle but some progress I think.
Thanks for all of your support
x
 
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